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What have you done today? I trained my PC to learn.

This is a student public announcement: The machines have rebelled against us! The robot overlords will take our jobs and enslave all of humanity! We are all doomed! They are coming…

Now, that’s a proper cheerful way to start a blog, isn’t it? Trust me (he says as a complete stranger to you, the reader, who have no idea who I am and what I stand for) when I say that it’s not as bad as some people might think. In truth, robots, AI, nanotech, the internet of things, 3D printing and other technologies such as these are mostly designed to improve our way of life and help us grow as individuals and as a species. The fourth industrial revolution will influence all our lives in unique ways, as we all are unique people coming from different backgrounds, each of us with our own hopes, dreams and plans for the future.

Speaking about being unique and this being my first blog, I feel like I should tell you a bit about myself, so that you can get a feel of the person from whom these blogs emanate. I was born in a land of dragons, werewolves, superstitions and vampires about 24 years ago. I am one of your friendly ResLife Mentors in Ranmoor. For the past 4 years I have been studying aerospace engineering here in Sheffield, however for my final year I’ve taken a keen interest in AI. My logic is: “They can’t control me if I am the one creating and controlling them!” #genius

However, narcissistic as I might be, this blog isn’t about me so let’s get back to the point. We’re working with two questions. One: will the evil intelligent machine overloads take over? And two: how can I teach my machine to learn?

The first question is easy: No, not a chance. AI is just a tool. A function if you will. Think of it as a black box: you give it something, like an input, it works and gives you an output. You might not know what happens inside, but it can only do what you’ve thought it to do. I don’t suppose you’re afraid of a bread making machine, are you? You give it the ingredients, and some time later bread pops out. You might not know how bread is made, but it is still bread. AI is similar. It can learn to perform tasks but it cannot think. It does not have intelligence in a human sense. For a more scientific view on the matter, you can check out this article by Dr Eleni Vasilaki, Professor of Computational Neuroscience here at UoS.

Now to the second question. You might not believe me, but trust me: anyone can teach their computer how to learn. You don’t need to be a computer science student, or a mathematician or have any in-depth knowledge of complex algorithms. To be honest, no matter your background, you can teach your machine how to learn from the comfort of your own couch. “But how? Wait? What? What are you on about? I know nothing of robots and AI!” you might say.

Take a deep breath. Relax! There, that’s better. This is where events and workshops such as the “Fundamentals of Deep Learning for Computer Vision” come into play. Delivered by qualified and expert instructors, these workshops and courses are designed to give anyone who might be interested a hands-on training in AI. I attended the above mentioned event this Tuesday, in the Diamond,  and I was amazed at how simple it could be to implement different deep learning algorithms without the need to write a single line of code. This can be done by using online platforms, such as NVIDIA DIGITS, which have all the code you need written in the background. All you need to do is think of a problem you want solving and try it out.

During the workshop, we managed to build some really powerful models, capable of reading handwritten numbers, detect whale faces (yes, I kid you not!) and identifying cars and pedestrians while in a moving car. The last implementation is actually the stuff used for autonomous and self-driving cars! However, AI can be used for so much more: from space exploration to composing music, from understanding the mood of a person by the tone of their voice to autonomous cars and diagnosing rare forms of cancer in seconds. I find this video called “I am AI” to be quite inspiring, showing many of the amazing things AI can do for us.

Weather you are an arts, humanities or engineering student, AI is a good tool to get to know and use in your work. The “Fundamentals of Deep Learning” course was run by the NVIDIA Deep Learning Institute in collaboration with Research Software Engineering Sheffield as a full-day workshop and was completely free to academics and students! If you would like to get to know more about RSES’ free activities and courses, check out their webpage. Also, if you wish to know more about AI and Machine Learning, come along to some of the meetings and events of the Machine Learning Research Network at the UoS. You can find the MLNet page here. The internet is also your friend if you wish to know more, with tons of free online courses and workshops being available across different websites. Just ask Google about them.

I hope this little blog of mine stirred up your interest and put you at ease about the machine uprising. If you’re still worried that robots might take your job, check out this final website. As a future aerospace-computer science person, there are only 2% chances that machines will take my job! Yes! It seems like my plan to control the controlling machines will actually work!  The Revolution has begun!

Yours faithfully,

Andrei



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